56 - On Aging

Sonia Brock

As my 70th Birthday approached I found myself having to come to terms with reality. I’m very good at fooling myself. Most people are.

I once fooled myself into thinking I was a bodybuilder This was when I was younger. I went to the gym with the big guys. I lifted weights and I used the machines and so forth. The net effect was stronger arms and legs. The other effect was that I went up a bra size, not in front, but from muscle development in my back. I also gave myself a knee injury from which I’m still recovering, (Don’t try to press more weight than you reasonably can and expect your bent knees to hold. Ooops!)

My other self-delusion was that I could do Martial Arts. I claim that I got my “pink” belt. Not true. It was white, the lowest rank and I never got any higher. I can’t remember dance moves, Tae Kwon Do moves, Tai Chi, or anything. I don’t have a visual memory. I can’t see pictures in my head. This is a known condition called Aphantasia, “a condition where one does not possess a functioning mind’s eye and cannot voluntarily visualize imagery” (Wikipedia) If you can’t see pictures in your mind, then you don’t have the necessary mind map needed to do a chain of movements and you’re sunk!

In computer war games you need to map. There are vast terrains and missions to do all over them. I was heavily dependent on the online Wiki database that exists for my then-game, Guild Wars. For Missions, I depend on PUGs (Player User Groups) which join briefly to do a Mission and then leave. I carry my weight, I’m a good fighter. I just can’t map. I have no functioning mind’s eye.

In reality, it doesn’t matter how much makeup I slather on, or whether I go to the hairdresser or not. I’m still seventy years plus. When I went to the hairdresser last, we got to talking so she just kept fussing. When she was almost done, she picked up the curling iron and, because I was a sigh Senior Citizen she made little tight curls all over my head. My hair is getting rather thin and is white. This was interesting, not my normal style but there you go. Then, I went to a reception for volunteers at jazz.fm and my friend, Danny Marks, hauled me up on stage where I did a rousing version of The Midnight Special. I rocked the house. The spotlight on those tight curls and sparse white hair made me look BALD in the resulting photographs. I’m still 70 and counting, so that’s par for the course.

Another thing that does not improve with age is short-term memory. If I need to do a bunch of things such as the list below:

o Buy a table.
o Send a Get-Well card over the Internet.
o Add items to grocery list.
o Tell Don I can’t make it to the computer Beer Bash this time.
o Make egg salad for sandwiches.

I get stuck on ‘buy a table over the Internet’ to the detriment of all the other items listed. Then, another item will pop up at random, so I’ll do that and worry vaguely that there is something else I need to do. Bit by bit. most of the items surface, triggered by who knows what, until, with luck, I get most done.

By the time I’ve got to items 3 and 4 I’ve forgotten item 5. It will surface later when I get hungry enough to remember I meant to make egg salad sandwiches. You can only deal with this fragility of short-term memory philosophically. Remember what you can and let the rest go hang. Some charitable researchers say that this weakness comes from having too much information in our heads. Too bad you can’t do head cleaning the way you can do house cleaning.

In my family, we look about 10 or 15 years younger than we are, until one day the boom descends, and we suddenly look older. People don’t realize that I am at my attained age of 70 plus. It’s about time, however, that I started realizing it. I’ve started looking at older faces with a more discerning eye, looking for the beauty that is there, if you look for it. We are so predicated in this society on youth, on idolizing youth, but one day that’s all gone and it ain’t comin’ back. I had to revise my self-image, which was permanently set at about age 45. That was a reset from many years when it was permanently set as a 16-year-old boy! I was a tomboy when I was a kid. Took me a while to grow out of that too.

So, I was permanently set at age 45. Well, I’m not 45 It was hard to give that up. I had a bout of depression and then I decided “There’s not a darn thing I can do about it”. I had to accept something that I could not change and that wasn’t easy. It was a real reality check.

Here I am and, apparently, I’m going strong. Things that used to interest me no longer interest me as much. I’m not as competitive. I take up some new things. I’m still growing plants and reading and knitting and sewing a bit. I go out every 6 weeks to my computer guys’ beer bash with other old geeks and demi-geeks like me. We sit around and talk about what’s wrong with Microsoft. Why we may or may not like Linux and so forth. I have a few other social outings too. It’s a good life. I’m very lucky to be alive and reasonably well, even if I’m ageing.

I’m 86 as I edit this entry, slower and I tire easily but I’m still writing and podcasting a bit and taking online courses. I’m still war gaming. This time it’s World of Warcraft which I play online with my sister in British Columbia. I only go out on Zoom where I facilitate a short story book club and a Coffee, Tea, and Chat group on Wednesdays for Sunshine Centre for Seniors. I’m still reading as well as writing a bit of Science Fiction. Aside from arthritis and well-controlled Diabetes 2, I am healthy. Stay tuned. I may update this in 10 years :-)

Wavy Line

© Sonia Brock 2007